I think today’s Gospel is one of my favorites for many reasons. The dynamic and exchanges it describes just ring so true, with this man being sent around, buffetted from the puzzled on all sides, trying to figure out what happened to him and who did it.
And even he isn’t too sure.
The way in which Jesus heals him points ahead to the sacramentality at the core of Christian life. Some despise ritual, say none of it matters, say that God is not bound by any of it. Of course God is not bound by it. God can do anything he likes. But in this world he created, he uses all that he created to reach us, to touch us, to heal us. Jesus could have said – go – y0u’re healed, but here he didn’t. He spits. He makes mud. He rubs it on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash. As often as we gripe about the complexities and mysteries born of the Incarnation – that now God’s ways are mixed up in human ways, and wouldn’t it be simpler if God would just reach in and do some magic and bypass creation to act?
Would it be simple?
I don’t know.
But it wouldn’t be consistent with the very act of Creation and God’s presence within it. It is the glory and mystery of God-With-Us.
No magic wands, clearly labeled. Just spit and mud and push to go find the waters and wash.
One of the other points of this narrative that I come back to repeatedly is the process of the blind man’s faith – and I do see it as a process.
Just look at how he answers the questions he’s asked – they get gradually more specific with each time he is challenged. At first the one who healed him is just “a man.” And no, he doesn’t know where he is.
Then, to the Pharisees, he says that he supposed the healer was “a prophet.”
Then second time with the Pharisees he argues that obviously this man must be “from God.
And then, finally, after he has totally frustrated everyone, scandalized others and been thrown out of the presence of the Pharisees. He meets Jesus. No accident. Jesus seeks him out. And gently asks him some questions – and in response, in recognition, the man, now seeing in every sense, calls him “Lord.”
It seems to me to be a very accurate account of how faith grows and develops – in response to questions and challenges in which we are forced to examine our encounter with God, who we think God is, exactly, open ourselves more and more to him until finally, we meet him again, having been through the ringer, from within and without, and can finally put our ultimate trust, no matter what others say we should do, in the One who touched us way back when.